Last week, asanixay posted a blog asking the question “why do super villains get all the love?” and compared villains to real life criminals and how fictional villains are not hated as much as real criminals are. I commented on this post, pointing out that is possible that people are able to see far more sides to villains in comics than they are able to see if real-life criminals which might make super villains more relatable or make it more clear why the villain does what he does. When I thought about what I should blog about this week, I kept coming back to this blog entry and remembered a graphic novel that was published a year ago titled “My Friend Dahmer.”
Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the most prolific serial killers in American history who raped and murdered 17 men and boys. The artist went to school with Dahmer and recounts his friendship with Dahmer throughout middle school and high school. The story is not told from Dahmer’s perspective but instead is told from Derf’s perspective. It shows how what Dahmer did has had a knock on effect for everyone who knew him as highlighted by this panel:
Derf even takes on a sympathetic tone when talk about the issues Dahmer faced in school and takes a matter-of-fact tone about the fascination Dahmer developed with death:
I think the novel is an interesting intersection between trying to writing (accurately and maybe even fondly) about a person who once was your friend and who you have fond memories with when he’s been cast as the ultimate devil in mainstream consciousness but also making it clear that you are not trying to defend what he did or support the actions he took.
I feel like the people who are most likely to pick up this book are people who are already interested in learning about serial killers and often understand or empathize with things that happened in their life that “flipped that switch” and made it possible for them to kill how they did (not saying just a bad childhood creates serial killers, but some sort of combination of bad experiences and genes). This type of story already appeals to them. But I wonder how this book might change the mindsets or world view of the average person who only knows Jeffrey Dahmer as the guy who killed little boys and nothing more. Would this book be able to make them think more critically of the news coverage of criminals? more critically about the social world around them and how they treat and understand other people? I can’t answer that question, but it is interesting to think about. What do you think?